Coral reef ecosystems support significant biological activities and harbor huge diversity, but they are facing a severe crisis driven by anthropogenic activities and climate change. An important behavioral trait of the coral holobiont is coral motion, which may play an essential role in feeding, competition, reproduction, and thus survival and fitness. Therefore, characterizing coral behavior through motion analysis will aid our understanding of basic biological and physical coral functions. However, tissue motion in the stony scleractinian corals that contribute most to coral reef construction are subtle and may be imperceptible to both the human eye and commonly used imaging techniques. Here we propose and apply a systematic approach to quantify and visualize subtle coral motion across a series of light and dark cycles in the scleractinian coral Montipora capricornis. We use digital image correlation and optical flow techniques to quantify and characterize minute coral motions under different light conditions. In addition, as a visualization tool, motion magnification algorithm magnifies coral motions in different frequencies, which explicitly displays the distinctive dynamic modes of coral movement. Specifically, our assessment of displacement, strain, optical flow, and mode shape quantify coral motion under different light conditions, and they all show that M. capricornis exhibits more active motions at night compared to day. Our approach provides an unprecedented insight into micro-scale coral movement and behavior through macro-scale digital imaging, thus offering a useful empirical toolset for the coral research community.
ASJC Scopus subject areas